It’s been said that every generation has a distinct personality. The thinking goes that our likes, dislikes, and motivations can be shaped by the shared experiences we live through as a group. Just consider Millennials, (born 1981–2000) who have grown up in an age marked by digital media, a recession, team-working, and terrorism. That contrasts with Gen Xers (born 1965–1980), a group molded by independent, “latchkey kid” rearing, high divorce rates, and the advent of the PC, to name just a few markers. Then there are Baby Boomers (born between 1946–1964) a cohort that has been shaped by experiences like pioneering space travel, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War.
As we take known generalized characteristics of each generation and apply them to the workplace, we’re left with a degree of useable information, but in some ways, our insights may be incomplete. That means that HR and talent professionals can be limited to broad simplifications of entire age groups, which doesn’t necessarily translate to breakthrough employee programs or initiatives.
By looking at generations (and Millennials in particular) through a new paradigm—Business Chemistry—HR functions can potentially develop more custom employee experiences and programs based on individuals’ actual preferences and work styles. Consider an HR department that’s tasked with developing a recommendation for the new office layout, for example. A broad generational stereotype might lead them to an open office concept to appeal to Millennials, who demand less privacy than older generations.
But by factoring in the various work styles of Millennials, including their changeable preferences for quiet work, informal team collaboration, project spaces, and remote access, an even more customized plan could be developed. Offices that have adaptable environments with “raisable” walls, layered work surfaces, and a mix of fixed versus moveable elements could go even further to appeal to this generation. By acknowledging, and then leaning into Millennials’ different ways of working, you can take an initiative or benefit and then potentially amplify it.
That’s where Business Chemistry comes in. Designed for use in a business context, Deloitte’s Business Chemistry is a personality system that employs analytics technologies to reveal four scientifically based patterns of observable business behavior. The four Business Chemistry types are:
- Pioneer: Pioneers like variety, possibilities and generating new ideas
- Driver: Drivers like logic, systems and laser focus on goals
- Guardian: Guardians like concrete details and stability; they respect what is tried and true
- Integrator: Integrators like personal connection and seeing how the pieces fit together
What’s the sacred cow for Millennials? In the Deloitte report, “Take Your Corporate Culture Off Cruise Control,” the authors note that Millennials are challenging established notions about employee identity. In general, they care more about meaningful experiences than careers, so they are quicker to notice—and publicize—mismatches between a company’s aspirations and what it actually does.
At a time when many organizations are concerned about retaining nomadic Millennial talent, Business Chemistry can complement what we already know about Millennials’ preferences and help us reengage them. Once individuals identity their own Business Chemistry type, there are compelling benefits to integrating Business Chemistry into your broader work culture.
- Aligns with Millennials’ Definition of Diversity. Unlike some older generations who define diversity in terms of fairness, demographics, and equal representation, many Millennials see it as difference in background, experience, and thinking style. And, while some older generations frame diversity as a moral obligation, Millennials are more likely to see it as a business imperative. Bringing Business Chemistry into team interactions can serve as one more illustration to Millennials that the organization is truly inclusion-minded. Project teams, as an illustration, can be proactively staffed with a mix of Integrators, Drivers, Guardians and Pioneers, helping to send the message that all thinking styles are welcome and needed.
- Promotes Career Personalization/Job-Crafting. Burgeoning research shows that personalizing your job or “job crafting” has great promise for engaging Millennials. It encompasses the “active changes employees make to their own job designs in ways that can bring about numerous positive outcomes, including engagement, job satisfaction, resilience, and thriving.” Additional research by business scholar Adam Grant shows that when employees develop their own job titles, for example, a large majority express greater rapport, identity expression and stress reduction. Given the importance many Millennials place on customized experiences, Business Chemistry can help Millennials first understand their predilections and preferences—so that they can more easily create a work identity that leverages their natural style. A Driver, for example, will be helped in designing her career path if she’s aware of, and can maximize, her love of logic and problem solving.
- Creates an Additional Avenue for Feedback. More than other generations, Millennials indicate that they prefer continuous coaching and immediate feedback. Using Business Chemistry, managers can provide feedback to Millennials not just on deliverables and work products—but on the style they employ. In fact, Millennials are more than two times more engaged when they receive continuous feedback. So a manager could tell a millennial that while their sales presentation was strong, it didn’t quite have the vibrancy or animation needed to grab the attention of the room, which was mostly Pioneers. A bonus: As managers practice providing such feedback, they’ll have an improved ability to provide “micro-feedback.” That’s to say they’ll be better equipped to give powerful–but bite-sized, ongoing feedback—rather than surprising Millennials in a once-a-year performance review.
- Encourages Employees to Be “Others-Focused.” Some Millennials are criticized for being individualistic (hence the label “Selfie generation”). But with its focus on interaction, Business Chemistry encourages people to learn about and create hunches about colleagues. One of the advantages of creating a behavior-backed hunch is that Millennials can better relate to and become attuned to colleagues. Deloitte’s Biz Chem 20 Questions tool automates this process and lets you answer 20 questions about a person you’re trying to better understand and then provides you with a hunch about the person’s Business Chemistry type. After identifying a colleague’s type, a person can factor in the different preferences of each Business Chemistry type:
- Drivers. Approach them by building a logical argument, having your facts straight and asserting your point of view. Anticipate pushback and be direct, confident, and decisive.
- Integrators. Approach them by building rapport, asking questions and really listening, being diplomatic and being open to alternatives.
- Guardians. Approach them by being prepared, citing your sources, making it linear and concrete, and keeping emotions in check.
- Pioneers. Approach them by going big picture, sketching out your thoughts visually, bringing passion, and making it “an experience.”
While understanding Millennials as a group is important, it’s not enough. Creating an environment that allows Millennials to express their own style, while offering them flexion, can help better unlock their potential. Whether encouraging a design where people can try on different behavioral styles and approaches—or working to create an atmosphere that is type-neutral, appealing to all Business Chemistries matters.
To be sure, managing generational differences may never be reconcilable with art or science alone. But if inclusion is truly a gateway to employees acting authentically, for Millennials in particular, Business Chemistry can potentially translate to higher levels of engagement and commitment. Now who doesn’t want that?
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